As we approach the sixtieth anniversary of the violent public assassination of President John F. Kennedy, over half of all Americans surveyed continue to believe that he was killed by a conspiracy involving multiple assassins. Shermer and Gagné discuss: conspiracies and conspiracy theories • what role conspiracy theories play in society • who believes conspiracy theories and why • why conspiracy theorists rewrite the past • paranoid skepticism as a role in conspiracism • Oliver Stone’s “alternative version of history” • scapegoat theory of conspiracism (Rene Girard) and the military industrial complex • Marx’s dialectical materialism and conspiracism: all life is a battle between rival tribes • stolen future theory of conspiracism: there but for the conspiracy… • common themes in conspiracy theories like JFK, 9/11 Truth, Obama Birtherism, QAnon, Rigged Election and many others • JFK: the lone-gunman theory vs. hundreds of conspiracy theories • the nostalgic myth of “Camelot” and balancing the ledger of moral outrage • when Jack Became Jesus: JFK as a crucified Jesus • who was Lee Harvey Oswald and why did he kill Kennedy? • Cuba, Castro, the Bay of Pigs debacle, and Operation Northwoods • the CIA and why it is rational to be skeptical of their activities • how to determine if a conspiracy theory is true, false, or uncertain • epistemology, truth claims, how to evaluate evidence, knowledge as justified true belief • knowing vs. believing: I don’t want to believe in anything that must be believed in to be true • empirical truths vs. mythic truths • Did the resurrection of Jesus really happen or is it a mythological narrative with moral meaning. Michel Jacques Gagné teaches courses in critical thinking, political philosophy, philosophy of religion, and ethics in the Humanities Department of Champlain College Saint-Lambert, located near Montreal, Canada. His podcast is called Paranoid Planet and his latest book under discussion is Thinking Critically About the Kennedy Assassination.
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